DUBAI, June 22 (RIA Novosti) – Western and Arab nations in the Friends of Syria group agreed on Saturday to supply weapons to the rebel forces fighting the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and to channel it through a unified command system.
Ministers from the 11 main countries in the group agreed "to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground," they said in a statement following talks in Qatar on Saturday.
Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani said "force may be the only way to enforce righteousness and supplying weapons to the opposition may be the only way to reach peace in Syria," Al Jazeera reported.
The participant nations will each deliver supplies and support to the rebels independently as they see fit, the statement said, but all assistance will be channeled through the Free Syrian Army headed by General Salim Idriss.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was among the ministers attending. The members of the group are Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the US, and Turkey.
Despite Friends of Syria opting to supply arms to the rebels, it still supports the holding of an international peace conference in Geneva in September to help resolve the conflict, the statement said.
"We do so not to seek a military solution,” Secretary of State Kerry said. “Both sides should be able to compromise. Both sides should come to the table.”
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also called on foreign forces to stop intervening in the conflict, particularly Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia it supports.
"As we know there are international and regional interventions, especially by Hezbollah, that led to bloodshed, especially in Qusayr and the same thing is being arranged in Aleppo," Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani said, Al Jazeera reported.
Syrian opposition forces said on Friday they had already received some weapons supplies, but did not specify what kind of arms they were. They have previously requested missiles for man-portable air defense systems, anti-armor rockets and protective body armor and gas masks.
The United States said last week that Syria had crossed a red line by using chemical weapons in the conflict, in which over 93,000 people have now died according to the latest UN figures. Syria denied using chemical weapons.
Russia has consistently opposed allowing arms to reach the rebels, claiming they could fall into the hands of extremists and terrorists.